New allegations against the troubled West Valley City Police Department were revealed this week by an attorney representing the parents of Danielle Willard, who was shot and killed by police in 2012.
Attorney Mark Geragos is asking a federal judge not to halt their civil court case while former Detective Shaun Cowley faces criminal prosecution for the shooting.
Geragos alleges as part of a Monday court filing that an officer — not Cowley — accused of having sexual contact with potential suspects was given "hush money" after he resigned from the department, and that the officer "extorted a cash buyout" and resigned instead of going public with details about corruption within the department.
But Police Chief Lee Russo said Tuesday that while the officer did receive a severance payment and signed a nondisclosure agreement when he resigned about a year and a half ago, the money wasn’t given to keep him quiet.
"In no way, shape or form was this presented as covering up anything or as hush money," Russo told The Salt Lake Tribune.
Russo said the officer’s actions regarding alleged sexual activity were reviewed by the Utah attorney general’s office, but no criminal wrongdoing was found, and charges were never filed.
Attorneys for Willard’s parents are arguing in a civil wrongful-death case filed in federal court against Cowley and others that the case should not be halted while Cowley’s criminal case plays out.
The former detective is charged in 3rd District Court with second-degree felony manslaughter for the 21-year-old woman’s death in 2012.
Meanwhile on Tuesday, Cowley, 33, made a brief initial appearance in Salt Lake City’s 3rd District Court in the criminal case.
Cowley’s attorney waived reading of the charge, and a scheduling hearing was set for July 28. Cowley left the courtroom quickly and did not comment to reporters. If convicted, Cowley could be sentenced to prison for up to 15 years.
Kevin Salmon, the other detective involved in Willard’s shooting, was not charged.
Attorney Geragos in his civil court filing alleging that "hush money" was paid, focused on a portion of a deposition with West Valley City Manager Wayne Pyle, who said that city administrators willingly agreed to pay the officer in question:
"Mr. Geragos: OK. Did you know about the accusations of his sexual liaisons with potential suspects while on his shift at the time that the $10,000 was authorized?
"Mr. Pyle: Yes.
"Mr. Geragos: And you knew that he was calling that hush money so he wouldn’t talk?
"Mr. Pyle: I was aware of that after as [Assistant City Manager] Mr. [Paul] Isaac made it known to me, yes.
"Mr. Geragos: OK. Were you aware at that time that [the officer] wanted — was it $10,000 payment?
"Mr. Pyle: I don’t remember.
"Mr. Geragos: Whatever it was, you had authorized it at the time, right?
"My. Pyle: Uh-huh."
Pyle was did not respond to a request for comment.Next Page >
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